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A Roadmap to Defining and Winning the Real Abortion Debate: Prevention vs. Punishment

Lisa Littman suggests that the real abortion debate is about differing approaches to unintended pregnancy on the part of progressives and conservatives.

Punishment and Prevention Policies: What Happens

Fortunately, there is a wealth of information about the effects of Prevention and Punishment policies from the experience of many countries including our own. We find in country after country that maximizing the use of effective contraception results in decreasing abortions over the long term [9-11]. When contraceptive needs are unmet, abortions increase [11]. Contrary to what proponents of the punishment approach use as justification for making abortion illegal, international experience shows that the legality of abortion is not correlated with the frequency of the procedure [8,10]. Many countries with the lowest abortion rates have the most liberal abortion laws while countries with the highest rates often have restrictive laws [8,10,19,21]. The Netherlands, which maximizes preventive measures and has liberal abortion laws, has one of the lowest abortion rates of any industrialized nation in the world [19,21]. Extensive international data also confirms that the legal status of abortion is correlated with safety [8,10,11,21]. When women experience unwanted pregnancies, they will turn to abortion whether it is legal or not [8,10,21]. The consequence of the illegality is that far more women die from the procedure and maternal mortality is greatly increased [8,11,20,21].

If our goals are reducing abortions and reducing the number of women dying from pregnancy related causes, the data clearly show that prevention is effective, punishment is not.


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